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What Is Sepsis?

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Sepsis is a medical emergency graphic

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. It is a life-threatening medical emergency that happens when an infection you already have - in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else - triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. It's your body's over active and toxic response to an infection, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

A patient with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

Prevention

Maintain proper hygiene: Proper hygiene is the best preventive step for almost all infections.

Getting vaccinated: Vaccinations will protect from various viral diseases such as chicken pox, tetanus and polio.

Taking care of the wounds: As every cut in the skin can pave way for bacteria to enter the body causing infections, it is very important to clean all wounds quickly and monitor them for signs of infection.

Proper treatment of infections and other related diseases

  • Bacterial infections: People who have bacterial infections are usually prescribed antibiotics. Due to the overuse/misuse of these medicines, certain bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics, making the treatment more difficult. Therefore, antibiotics should be taken only when it is necessary and one should follow the prescribed format.  
  • Viral infections: Viral infections usually get resolved during their course without treatment. For some infections, antiviral medications are also prescribed. One should be careful when the infection does not cure and new symptoms develop, making the situation worse. In such cases, getting advice from a doctor is the better option.
  • Fungal and parasitic infections: Infections that are caused by fungi or parasites should be treated with specific medications to eradicate the cause.

Risk factors

Any infection, from the tiniest source (a bug bite, a hangnail, etc.) to the more severe (pneumonia, meningitis, and so on), can trigger sepsis, which can lead to severe sepsis and septic shock. Those at the highest risk of developing sepsis include infants and seniors, as well as people with chronic or serious illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer, and those who have an impaired immune system.

Treatment

Sepsis should be treated as quickly as possible as soon as it has been identified. This means rapid administration of antibiotics and fluids. A 2006 study showed that the risk of death from sepsis increases by and average of 7.6% with every hour that passes before treatment begins.

Antibiotics are prescribed by the physician based on the type of infection that is causing the illness. The first antibiotics are usually broad-spectrum, which means the antibiotic is effective against several of the more common bacteria. The antibiotics are given intravenously in order to ensure they get into the blood system quickly and efficiently.

IV fluids are also needed as antibiotics alone won't treat sepsis. The body needs extra fluids to help keep the blood pressure from dropping dangerously low, throwing the patient into shock. Giving the fluids by IV allows health care staff to track how much fluid is being administered and to control the type of fluid the patient is getting.

Ensuring the body has enough fluids helps the organs do their work and may reduce damage from sepsis.

Sources:
https://www.sepsis.org/
https://www.cdc.gov/sepsis/